In just a couple of years, the young corrido singer-songwriter Alexander García, known as El Fantasma (The Ghost), has attracted a devoted following. Young Mexicans on both sides of the border enjoy his macho posturing and earnest love for his family and friends. Older listeners appreciate his old school style and his ability to describe rural life with authentic detail.
His most recognizable hit so far has been “Mi 45,” an ode to his gun and the highlight of his debut album “Equipo Armado” (“Armed Team”). It’s an excellent example of the kind of songs he’s using to make his name. The music sticks to traditional melodies and instruments, while the lyrics hint at politics (“The Mexican government/killed my brother”) and violent crime (“I’m part of the mafia/responsible and talented”) yet don’t delve deeply in either. That’s because El Fantasma’s main interests are friendship and, especially, loyalty. “A hand for my friend/ a bullet for my enemy,” he explains in “Mi 45.” “Those traitors/ who left the team/ better beware.”
His new single, “En el Camino” (“On the Way”), stays true to this formula. It’s faster paced, more festive than the older song, but the attitude is the same. “I stay away/ from false friendships/My true friends/ I’ve had forever.”
It seems clear that El Fantasma has perfected the art of posing tough while not glorifying crime or gang violence. The keen eye for detail he shows in “Mi 45” or other hits such as “Vengo a Aclarar” (“I Come to Make Clear”), in which he evokes the ranching life and the struggles of poor working people in rural Mexico and urban America. “En el Camino” is a simpler song, one that perhaps already shows a successful artist resting on his laurels. Hopefully his future work will see him branching out and trying new things.
There’s still much to recommend El Fantasma and his music, above all his soulful, wise-beyond-his-years voice. There’s a sadness, a weariness to the young man’s raspy voice, and a surprising versatility he shows sparingly, but effectively. There’s no doubt that he is a major talent, destined to write and perform some new classics of northern Mexican music.